Changes on the horizon as Ms. Erisman resigns

Caroline Erisman, Head of School, announced on April 16 that she will leave Dana Hall at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. She describes her seven years spent at Dana as “rewarding, challenging and memorable,” and it is “with a heavy heart and mixed emotions” that she has to finally conclude her tenure.

In the past year and a half, Ms. Erisman has been traveling twice a month to visit her elderly parents in Philadelphia. When there were weekend activities that required her to be at Dana, she would have to take the train on early Sunday morning, spend three hours with her parents, and return to Dana at night. Although she has “found great joy” working with the “extraordinary faculty and staff,” “inspiring girls,” “wise Board of Trustees,” and “loyal Dana alumnae” that made her experience here at Dana “fabulous,” she is returning to New York City, where she has more family connections and can visit her parents more easily.

Students’ first reactions to the news were varied. Nora Panahi ’15 says, “I’m glad that I won’t be here when she is gone, because I can’t imagine Dana Hall without her.” However, since it was the administrators who announced it at Class Meeting, which followed the same pattern as their announcing the “senior prank” of a celebrity coming to Dana last year, many sophomores and juniors at first thought the administration had pranked them again. Sophia (Grace) Rubin ’16 says that she simply did not believe that the news was real.

Looking forward to her last year at Dana, Ms. Erisman says that she has a number of projects to either start or accomplish. She will finalize the renovation of the new Student Center in the summer, raise money to renovate the Johnston Dormitories, and work on the fifth-grade curriculum for the 2016-17 academic year. “There’s always more to do,” she says.

In the meantime, the school has formed a Search Committee, which is responsible, along with the Board of Trustees, for identifying and hiring the new Head of School. Christopher Arnold of Educational Directions Incorporated, a professional search consultant, will partner with the Search Committee. In addition, the Faculty and Staff Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Nancy Rich, Academic Dean, and Charlie Breslin, Chief Operating Officer, will communicate with the Search Committee and keep the faculty and staff informed of the process. The committee has selected its eight members; four will represent the faculty, and four will represent the staff. Moreover, Mr. Arnold will also meet with both Middle School and Upper School student leaders for student input. “Transparency and representation are important,” says Mr. Breslin. Nadia Myers ’17 says that she is thrilled to witness the search process for the new Head of School; meanwhile, it is sad to see Ms. Erisman leave, because “she has a lot of energy, which is really important to help Dana excel.” 

According to Mr. Breslin, one of the reasons the school started the process this early was because several all-girl schools in the area have the same timeline of searching for its new Head of School, creating potential competition. The Search Committee will review all resumes of the candidates with Mr. Arnold, and select a pool of eight candidates as semi-finalists by September. The three finalists will then be presented to the entire faculty and staff in October, and the Board of Trustees will select and announce the new Head of School before Winter Break. “It will be a thorough process involving all members of the Dana Hall community” Ms. Rich says.

Photograph courtesy of the Dana Hall Communications Office.

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